In Susan’s first post, she included a list of priorities. My biggest contribution to that list was the last item, “enrich the world.” It took me almost three months to come up with that. It started back at the beginning of November when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts.
In episode 348 of the Art of Manliness, Bretty McKay interviewed Robin Dreeke about his book, The Code of Trust: An American Counterintelligence Expert’s Five Rules to Lead and Succeed.
Their conversation really struck a chord with me. I knew it was important. I knew they were presenting a lot of truth and wisdom. I knew I wanted it. I knew I wanted to want it. I knew I didn’t have it. I had no idea how much I really needed it.
Dreeke presents many challenges to his readers; the first one I tackled, the one that led to my contribution to Susan’s list, was this: “Determine your own ultimate goal.” He goes on to immediately clarify that as “the prize that justifies your sacrifices.”
I admit, the first time I read this, I thought “Ask a stupid question…” It sounded too simplistic–naïve. It lacked nuance. It’s nonsense like this that makes the butter passing robot from Rick and Morty so funny and so dark. Doesn’t this guy know that the real world that us real adults inhabit doesn’t operate according to idealistic pabulum like “ultimate goals”? Is this guy some sort of hippy?…no…he is a former Marine turned FBI counterintelligence agent. Ok, maybe there is something substantive here.
So I let it sit for a while.
It resurfaced frequently throughout the book.
Some examples: “Ultimate goals—the ones that never fail to satisfy—almost always consist of achieving internal qualities—such as unshakable optimism, complete self-confidence, sublime peace of mind, a deep sense of security, abundant self-esteem, and true love.”
Some encouragement: “Your ultimate goal is undoubtedly worthy of being shared, and pursued by others, because it’s almost shocking how similar all of our wants and needs are.”
His own personal evolution:
- “I’d changed my own ultimate goal. It had previously been to be a leader, but by this time it was to have healthy, happy relationships with the people around me.“
- “…my ultimate goal—my wellspring from which all else flows: the ideal of having healthy, happy relationships with the people around me.”
- “My ultimate goal now is just to have healthy, happy relationships.“
- “…formulate your own ultimate goal. It’s probably something you can say in five seconds—a handy rule for winnowing your goal to its core.”
- “If you haven’t set an ultimate goal for yourself, do it now. As the saying goes: it’s not rocket surgery—or something like that.”
It might not be “rocket surgery,” and when you get it right, it may only say five seconds to say, but it took me a lot longer than that to come up with something that felt even just ok.
I started just trying to list single words that resonated: Connections, Clarity, Composure, Compassion, Curiosity, Courage. (I got caught in a bit of an alliterative loop there.) Then I tried weaving those into imperatives:
- Bring clarity and composure to life by forming connections rooted in compassion, inspired by curiosity and cultivated with courage.
- Form enduring connections inspired by curiosity, not driven by fear.
The problem was, I just couldn’t say those with a straight face. They sounded overwrought. They didn’t seem worthy of being shared or inviting enough to be received.
So I let it sit for a while.
A big part of my meditation practice has been learning how to just sit still when things are uncomfortable.
Eventually, at the end of January, on my second reading of the book, I came back to it, and I came up with this. My ultimate goal is to enrich the lives of those around me.
This isn’t perfect (as you can see, Susan, has already helped simplify it a bit), but it is feels like a good starting point, a good foundation. It feels worthy of being shared. Indeed, it has to be shared to be achieved. I want to lead a rich life. I want my friends and family to feel that their lives are richer for me having been a part of them, and who knows, maybe if I keep practicing and putting in time here on this blog, even you might walk away feeling a little wealthier.
Regardless, I’m pretty sure I can do more than just pass the butter…even if that’s really all I was built for.